GSE Exec Retires After 50 Years Of Service At Douglas Equipment

In an age when we can all expect to change companies many times during our careers, it is unusual to find someone who has spent half a century with the same firm.

But Michael Doane has done just that with Cheltenham-based Douglas Equipment, having completed an extraordinary career in engineering, sales and marketing.

Michael has travelled the globe for the last 35 years, marketing and selling the best in British engineering. Douglas Equipment produces aircraft towing tractors and ground support equipment for commercial and military markets.

Thanks in no little part to Michael's efforts, the company based in Arle, Cheltenham now exports 90 percent of its products worldwide.

Michael, now 66, joined the company in 1963 on a five-year engineering apprenticeship and in 1968 qualified as a production engineer.

He said he was glad that through initiatives like the 2013 Apprenticeship Challenge campaign, apprenticeships were again becoming popular with young people.

"They give an excellent start for a young person," he said, "To have that background in engineering has been a great aid to my career."

Through his time at Douglas Equipment, Michael rose steadily through the ranks progressing from production engineer to senior design engineer from 1963 to 1973.

He then became technical sales engineer, rising to general sales manager in 1987 and became Douglas' sales and marketing director in 1988. He has helped the company face and overcome the challenges in the aviation world by developing new products and solutions.

Michael has met and negotiated with many people from many countries and cultural backgrounds - when we spoke he had just returned from closing a deal in Australia.

"There are not too many places I have not been to in the world," he said. "But I have thoroughly enjoyed my job and it has been an eye opener."

His travels have taken him to Scandinavia, North America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia, China and Japan, while he has hosted official UK trade missions to the USA, Vietnam and Poland and inward trade missions to this country.

Michael has used his skills to negotiate multi-million pound deals for Douglas with leading international airlines, ground handling companies and airport authorities. And in some circumstances he has secured orders for products still at the design stage.

Among his biggest achievements was the launch of a completely new product range of towbarless aircraft-handling tractors, which became the global market leader in less than five years.

He has also been busy outside the company, acting as a judge on Channel 4's Scrapheap Challenge where teams compete to construct a "junk machine" using only what they can scrounge from scrap. Michael has seen quite a few changes during his time at Douglas Equipment.

In 2011 the company, which was founded in 1947 and now employs 130 people, was taken over by Curtiss-Wright Flow Control, the U.S. group which makes a range of products in the defence, power, process and industrial sectors.

In 2010, Douglas achieved the rare accolade of winning two Queen's Awards for Enterprise in one year. It received the Queen's Award for Innovation for the Douglas RAM Handler which reduced the deck handling time for aircraft from seven minutes to just 50 seconds. It was developed for the Royal Navy and subsequently marketed to other forces. And it also took the Queen's Award for Inter national Trade.

And three aircraft tow tractors from Douglas Equipment were even featured in the Bond film, Casino Royal. They were modified to travel at 50 mph for an action scene.

Michael, who lives in Cheltenham, will now take a well-earned retirement although he will remain as a consultant at Douglas. He said: "We make a quality product and produce after sales support that is second to none in our industry." He has been asked to take up the position of honorary president at the British Airport Services and Equipment Association which helps member companies achieve full order books by promoting their products and services.

"It is an opportunity to stay involved in the industry and give other companies the benefit of my experience," he added.

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